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captain of the host? and she answered; I dwell among my brethren. Little did she then think of this injurious measure; else she might have said, "I dwell among mine enemies; I dwell among robbers." It is like they were then friendly, who were now cruel and oppressive. There is no trust to be reposed in flesh and blood. How should their favours be constant, who are, in their nature and disposition, variable? It is the surest way, to rely on Him, who is ever like himself; the measure of whose love is eternity.
Whither should the Shunamite go, to complain of her wrong, but to the court? There is no other refuge of the oppressed, but public authority. All justice is derived from sovereignty. Kings are not called gods, for nothing: they do both sentence and execute for the Almighty.
Doubtless, now the poor Shunamite thought of the courteous proffer of Elisha; and, missing a friend at the court, is glad to be the presenter of her own petition.
How happily doth God contrive all events, for the good of his! This suppliant shall fall upon that instant for her suit, when the king shall be talking with Gehazi; when Gehazi shall be talking of her to the king. The words of Gehazi, the thoughts of the king, the desires of the Shunamite, shall be all drawn together, by the wise providence of God, into the centre of one moment, that his oppressed servant might receive a speedy justice. Oh the infinite wisdom, power, mercy of our God, that insensibly orders all our ways; as to his own holy purposes, so to our best advantage!
What doth Jehoram the king, talking with Gehazi the leper? That very presence was an eyesore. But if the cohabitation with the infectious were forbidden, yet not the conference.
Certainly, I begin to think of some goodness in both these. Had there not been some goodness in Jehoram, he had not taken pleasure to hear, even from a leprous mouth, the miraculous acts and praises of God's prophet: had there not been some goodness in Gehazi, he had not, after so fearful an infliction of judgment, thus ingenuously recounted the praises of his severe master.
He, that told that dear-bought lie to the prophet, tells now all truths of the prophet to the king. Perhaps, his leprosy had made him clean if so; happy was it for him, that his forehead was white with the disease, if his soul became hereupon white with repentance.
But we may well know, that the desire or report of historical truths doth not always argue grace. Still Jehoram, after the inquiry of the prophet's miracles, continues his idolatry. He, that was curious to hearken after the wonders of Elisha, is not careful to follow his doctrine. Therefore are Gehazi and the Shunamite met before him, that he may be convicted, who will not be reformed. Why was it else, that the presence of the persons should thus unexpectedly make good the relation, if God had not meant the inexcuseableness of Jehoram, while he must needs say within himself;
"Thus potent is the prophet of that God, whom I obey not. Were not Elisha's the true God, how could he work such wonders? And if he be the true God, why is he not mine? But what? Shall I change Ahab's God, for Jehoshaphat's? No: I cannot deny the miracles; I will not admit of the author. Let Elisha be powerful, I will be constant."
O wretched Jehoram! How much better had it been for thee, never to have seen the face of Gehazi and the son of the Shunamite, than to go away unmoved, with the vengeance of leprosy in the one, with the merciful resuscitation of the other! Therefore is thy judgment fearfully aggravated, because thou wouldst not yield, to what thou couldst not oppose. Had not Ahab's obdurateness been propagated to his son, so powerful demonstrations of divine power could not have been ineffectual. Wicked hearts are so much worse, by how much God is better. This anvil is the harder, by being continually beaten upon; whether with judg
ments or mercy.
Yet, this good use will God have made of this report and this presence, that the poor Shunamite shall have justice. That son, whose life was restored, shall have his inheritance revived: his estate shall fare the better, for Elisha's miracles. How much more will our merciful God second his own blessings, when the favours of unjust men are therefore drawn to us, because we have been the subjects of divine beneficence!
It was a large and full award, that this occurrence drew from the king; Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field, since the day that she left the land, even until now. Not the present possession only is given her, but the arrearages.
Nothing hinders, but that outward justice may stand with gross idolatry.
The widow may thank Elisha for this. His miracle wrought still; and puts this new life in her dead estate. His absence did that, for the preservation of life, which his presence did, for the restoring it from death. She, that was so ready to expostulate with the man of God upon the loss of her son, might perhaps have been as ready, to impute the loss of her estate to his advice: now, that for his sake she is enriched with her own, how doth she bless God for so happy a guest! When we have forgotten our own good turns, God remembers and crowns them. Let us do good to all, while we have time; but especially to the household of faith.
Could Israel have been sensible of their own condition, it was no small unhappiness, to lose the presence of Elisha. Whether, for the idolatries, or for the famine of Israel, the prophet is gone into Syria. No doubt Naaman welcomed him thither; and now would force upon him thanks for his cure, which the man of God would not receive at home.
How famous is he now grown, that was taken from the team! His name is not confined to his own nation: foreign countries take notice of it; and kings are glad to listen after him, and woo him with presents. Benhadad, the king of Syria, whose councils he
had detected, rejoiceth to hear of his presence; and now, as having forgotten that he had sent a whole host to besiege the prophet in Dothan, sends an honourable messenger to him, laden with the burden of forty camels, to consult with this oracle, concerning his sickness and recovery.
This Syrian, belike, in distress dares not trust to his own gods; but, having had good proof of the power of the God of Israel, both in Naaman's cure and in the miraculous defeats of his greatest forces, is glad to send to that servant of God, whom he had persecuted. Wicked men are not the same, in health and in sickness : their affliction is worthy of the thanks, if they be well minded; not themselves.
Doubtless, the errand of Benhadad was not only to inquire of the issue of his disease, but to require the prayers of the prophet for a good issue. Even the worst man doth so love himself, that he can be content to make a beneficial use of those intruments, whose goodness he hateth.
Hazael, the chief peer of Syria, is designed to this message. The wealth of his present strives with the humility of his carriage and speech; Thy son, Benhadad, king of Syria, hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? Not long since, Jehoram, king of Israel, had said to Elisha, My father, shall I smite them? and now, Benhadad, king of Syria, says, "My father, shall I recover?"
Lo how this poor Meholathite hath kings to his sons! How great is the honour of God's prophets with pagans, with princes! Who can be but confounded, to see evangelical prophets despised by the meanest Christians?
It is more than a single answer, that the prophet returns to this message. One answer he gives to Benhadad, that sent it; another he gives to Hazael, that brings it: that to Benhadad, is, Thou mayest surely recover: That to Hazael, The Lord hath shewed me, that he shall surely die. What shall we say then? Is there a lie, or an equivocation, in the holy mouth of the prophet? God forbid. It is one thing, what shall be the nature and issue of the disease; another thing, what may outwardly befal the person of Benhadad. The question is moved of the former; whereto the answer is direct; the disease is not mortal: but withal an intimation is given to the bearer, of an event beyond the reach of his demand; which he may know, but either needs not, or may not return; The Lord hath shewed me, that he shall surely die; by another means, though not by the disease.
The seer of God descries more in Hazael, than he could see in himself: he fixes his eyes therefore stedfastly in the Syrian's face, as one that in those lines read the bloody story of his life.
Hazael blushes; Elisha weeps. The intention of those eyes did not so much amaze Hazael, as the tears. As yet, he was not guilty to himself, of any wrong that might strain out this juice of sorrow; Why weepeth my lord?
The prophet fears not to foretel Hazael, all the villainies which
he should once do to Israel; how he should fire their forts, and kill their young men, and rip the mothers, and dash their children.
I marvel not now, at the tears of those eyes, which foresaw this miserable vastation of the inheritance of God; the very mention whereof is abhorred of the future author: "What, is thy servant a dog, that I should do this great thing? They are savage cruelties, whereof thou speakest. It were more fit for me to weep, that thou shouldest repute me so brutish. I should no less condemn myself for a beast, if I could suspect my own degeneration so far."
Wicked men are carried into those heights of impiety, which they could not, in their good mood, have possibly believed. Nature is subject to favourable opinions of itself; and will rather mistrust a prophet of God, than her own good disposition. How many, from honest beginnings, have risen to incredible licentiousness; whose lives are now such, that it were as hard for a man to believe they had ever been good, as to have persuaded them once they should prove so desperately ill!
To give some overture unto Hazael, of the opportunity of this ensuing mischief, the prophet foretells him from God, that he shall be the king of Syria.
He, that shews the event, doth not appoint the means. Far was it from the Spirit of God's prophet, to set or encourage a treason; while he said therefore, Thou shalt be king of Syria, he said not, "Go home, and kill thy master:" the wicked ambition of Hazael draws this damnable conclusion, out of holy premises; and now, having fed the hopes of his sovereign with the expectation of recovery, the next day he smothers his master. The impotent desire of rule brooks no delay. Had not Hazael been gracelessly cruel, after he had received this prediction of the seer, he should have patiently awaited for the crown of Syria, till lawful means had set it upon his head. Now, he will, by a close execution, make way to the throne. A wet cloth hath stopped the mouth of his sick sovereign. No noise is heard: the carcase is fair. Who can complain of any thing, but the disease?
O Hazael! thou shalt not thus easily stop the mouth of thine own conscience; that shall call thee traitor, even in thy chair of state; and shall check all thy royal triumphs, with, "Thou hast founded thy throne in blood." I am deceived, if this wet cloth shall not wipe thy lips, in thy jolliest feasts; and make thy best morsels unsavoury. Sovereignty is painful, upon the fairest terms; but upon treachery and murder, tormenting. Woeful is the case of that man, whose public cares are aggravated with private guiltiness; and happy is he, that can enjoy a little, with the peace of 2 Kings viii.
an honest heart.
JEHU WITH JEHORAM AND JEZEBEL.
YET Hazael began his cruelty with loss. Ramoth Gilead is won from him. Jehoram the son hath recovered that, which Ahab his father attempted in vain.
That city was dear bought of Israel: it cost the life of Ahab, the blood of Jehoram. Those wounds were healed with victory. The king tends his health at Jezreel; while the captains were enjoying, and seconding their success at Ramoth.
Old Elisha hath neither cottage nor foot of land; yet, sitting in an obscure corner, he gives order for kingdoms: not by way of authority, (this usurpation had been no less proud, than unjust,) but by way of message, from the God of Kings. Even a mean herald may go on a great errand. The prophets of the Gospel have nothing to do, but with spiritual kingdoms; to beat down the kingdoms of sin and satan; to translate souls to the kingdom of Heaven.
He, that renewed the life of the Shunamite's son, must stoop to age. That block lies in his way to Jehu. The aged prophet employs a speedier messenger, who must also gird up his loins, for haste. No common pace will serve us, when we go on God's message: the very loss of minutes may be unrecoverable.
This great seer of God well saw a present concurrence of all opportunities: the captains of the host were then readily combined for this exploit; the army was on foot; Jehoram absent: a small delay might have troubled the work: the dispersion of the captains and host, or the presence of the king, might either have defeated or slacked the dispatch. He is prodigal of his success, that is
slow in his execution.
The directions of Elisha to the young prophet are full and punctual; whither to go; what to carry; what to do; where to do it; what to say; what speed to make, in his act, in his return. In the businesses of God, it matters not how little is left to our discretion. There is no important business of the Almighty, wherein his precepts are not strict and express; look, how much more specialty there is in the charge of God, so much more danger is in the violation.
The young prophet is curiously obedient; in his haste; in his observation and carriage: and finding Jehu, according to Elisha's prediction, set amongst the captains of the host, he singles him forth, by a reverent compellation; I have an errand to thee, O captain. Might not the prophet have stayed, till the table had risen, and then have followed Jehu to his lodging? Surely, the wisdom of God hath purposely pitched upon this season, that the public view of a sacred messenger, and the hasty evocation of so noted a person to such a secresy, might prepare the hearts of those commanders of Israel, to the expectation of some great design.
The inmost room is but close enough for this act. Ere many hours, all Israel shall know that, which yet may not be trusted with